In urgent care’s infancy, the stereotypical operator was an independent (some might even say maverick) physician who was dissatisfied with the traditional way of practicing medicine. Not seeing acceptable alternatives, he or she might get some resources together and open their own urgent care center, essentially becoming owner-operators. Over the years, however, as JUCM readers know, hospital systems and venture capitalists recognized they were missing out on a good thing and started buying or launching their own urgent care businesses. Even more traditional primary care practices have been co-opted into larger healthcare systems. At this point, according to a study released by the Physicians Advocacy Institute, only 30% of physicians in the United States practiced medicine “independently” at the beginning of this year, with 70% now employed by hospital systems or companies run by private equity firms and health insurers. Perhaps due to the shaky economic circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend picked up pace in the 2-year period before 2021.
Independent Physicians, Once the Backbone of Urgent Care, Are Now a Dwindling Minority